Strikeforce: Houston has come and gone, and we were graced with a pair of very interesting upsets. Chad Griggs put a halt to the Bobby Lashley 2011 title talk with a stoppage victory at the end of the 2nd round and Rafael "Feijão" Cavalcante shocked the world with a TKO over the very heavily promoted "King" Mo Lawal to win the Strikeforce light heavyweight title.
Actually, that's not true. What could have been a very compelling story was marred by the fact that nearly all the fans watching those two fights had no idea who the hell Chad Griggs or Feijão were.
This was once again an example of the Strikeforce marketing team failing to answer the questions that get fans buzzing about a specific fight. As the great Paul Heyman said this past week when talking about promoting:
Who are these two guys? Why are they fighting? And why should I care?
Take a look at this Strikeforce promo for the Strikeforce: Houston event.
Notice anything? More than half of the commercial was devoted to hyping up King Mo. All they even said about Feijão was that he was fighting King Mo. Hell, they are so certain that Bobby Lashley is going to win that they don't even tell you his opponent. They don't give you a reason to get invested in the outcome of the fight at all. That's just bad marketing. It's as if they aren't prepared for the possibility that these men could lose.
This isn't the first time that Strikeforce's one sided marketing has blown up in their face. Does this bring back any memories?
Oh yeah, Dan Henderson vs Jake Shields. Strikeforce was so certain that Henderson was going to roll over Shields that they didn't even promote their own champion in a title fight. Look at that promo. They don't even mention that Shields is their middleweight champion other than a flashed subtext under his name that's visible for a millisecond. You can only read it if you have DVR and you pause the screen. Henderson is shown walking out of a car, slamming a heavy bag, get's mentioned as one of the most decorated fighters in MMA history and is given the only 2 speaking parts of the commercial. Jake Shields? He's shown hitting a punching bag. Come on!
Want another example? How about Fedor Emelianenko. A fighter who hadn't lost in 10 years. Do they put him in a title fight immediately after his destruction of Brett Rogers? No. They put him in against a dangerous Fabricio Werdum and they don't hype Werdum whatsoever. All they cared about was a Fedor victory and a massive Emelianenko-Overeem title fight on the horizon.
I know it's cliche, but they need to take a page from the UFC's playbook here. No matter how one-sided a fight may seem, the UFC is usually prepared for that upset, and they're ready to launch whoever wins the fight to that next level. How do they do this? They make both fighters seem as dangerous as they can.
Look at the Jon Jones-Vladimir Matyushenko fight. As much as the media was ranting and raving about Jon Jones, the UFC made sure to give Matyushenko as big of a push as they could. Despite "The Janitor" not having been on a UFC main card in over seven years, they made references to his high level wrestling ability, his record, his history with the promotion.
Look at this UFC: Jones vs Matyushenko promo
They even made it look like Matyushenko had heavy hands despite the fact that 5 of his last 6 wins had been decisions. In the incredibly unlikely chance that Matyushenko defeated Jones, they were prepared to shift some of Jones' momentum to Matyushenko.
Let's go back to where we started. How much did you know about Chad Griggs before tonight? If you did a little digging you could find that he is a firefighter, and that he only has one career loss. Other than that? Nothing. What would have happened if Bobby Lashley had defeated Griggs anyways? Nothing. Griggs was never presented as an opponent that was even remotely dangerous. He was merely a stepping stone for Bobby Lashley's future superstardom. Fans (like myself) were expecting a one-sided beatdown and nothing more.
Strikeforce should have learned from EliteXC and Kimbo Slice. When you put all your eggs in one basket, you've got nothing left in case that other basket wins.